Not long ago I witnessed something that really inspired me. My bride Melanie and I were spending the evening with another couple. They had two young-adult kids who joined us for dinner, then were going out to do something else while the older folk stayed and talked.
As the two kids prepared to leave, the dad told them, “Remember who you are.” He said it almost casually, like “See you later,” or, “Drive safe.” And he apparently said that to them all the time. Those were the parting words he wanted to leave them with: Remember who you are.
But as I thought about it … that’s deep! This dad instilled the idea in his kids that they were carrying the family name—and he wanted them to also carry the family’s values—as they went out and saw friends and made choices. I’m sure he hoped that thought would make a difference to them, and from everything I can tell, it has.
I can think of too many people today who aren’t remembering who they are—celebrities, athletes, politicians, and even unknown people who make the news for embarrassing or irresponsible reasons. They’re doing all kinds of crazy stuff, and you have to assume they’re going against what their parents taught them.
Of course, it’s also true that we have too many people running around who don’t know who they are. They never had the benefit of a father or father figure to guide them, encourage them and hold them accountable.
But dads, I think the lesson for us is clear: we can use similar words to challenge and remind our children about the legacy they have and their calling to live with integrity. Maybe you can use this one yourself: “Remember who you are.”
When your daughter is offered drugs in the high school hallways, you want her to remember who she is. When your son gets called for a foul in a basketball game and he’s convinced it was a terrible call, you want him to remember who he is. When your children see a friend who is hurting or in need, you want them to think of that phrase and do the right thing. You want them to think about who they are and how other people see them, and you hope they’ll take that thought with them to college and beyond.
My pop did something similar, except his version was only one word long: “Watch.” That was his way of saying, Be careful. Don’t take life lightly. Don’t get hurt because you weren’t paying attention to something important. Usually, we’d hear it when someone we knew got in trouble.
Like my dad and my friend, maybe you can use something similar as a regular reminder as your kids leave for school, a date, or out with friends: “Remember who you are.” “Watch.”
Do you have something similar you say to your kids when you want to challenge them and remind them to behave? Or did your father have one that he used? Please share it with me below or at our Facebook page.
Action Points to help you be a good dad:
- Tell your children about something you remember your father (or a father figure) saying to you often. What did that statement mean to you?
- Decide on a saying or slogan that’s meaningful for your family. Repeat it often, and consider posting it prominently, possibly framed or on plaque, in your home.
- Try a similar statement to encourage a child who doesn’t have a dad.
- If a saying like “Remember who you are” becomes a regular reminder for your child to make good choices in the future, be sure to also give him plenty of positive affirmations of the character and talents he already has.
- As you consider ways to pass on a legacy of positive character to your children, keep these three factors in mind: 1) the values you’re seeking to transmit; 2) how you can help your child transition to adulthood someday; 3) the goal of truly reaching and impacting your children, not simply giving them a slogan.
- To really impact and motivate your child, you also need to build a strong connection. Schedule some fun, one-on-one activities with each of your children.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.